VMware’s Plan for AirWatch

By Lori Castle, Editor in Chief — April 30, 2014

It was the biggest acquisition ever made by VMware, and one that started off a year of consolidation in the briskly changing enterprise mobility industry. Most analysts agree that this is the general direction for the year and that standalone, one off solutions won’t survive much longer.

Maribel Lopez, founder of Lopez Research and former Forrester analyst, said, “We are evolving into the next generation of mobile and have a foundation of things such as EMM.” She believes that it will be very difficult, as the evolution continues, to find a be-it-all, end-all solution, and suggests that the answer lies in a provider with a wide ecosystem. 

Chris Marsh, Principal Analyst, Enterprise Mobility, Yankee Group said that the solution pecking order must be rethought.

“Enterprises need to question whether many of the traditional solution and platform approaches that gained early successes, actually have longevity anymore. The mobile enterprise application platform (MEAP) model, for example, led the early field in bringing some scale to enterprise mobile apps. Many of these companies have now fallen by the wayside as more scalable platform solutions disrupt the industry. Vendors evidently need to realize that closed proprietary technology models aren’t going to prosper in a nascent market as enterprise look elsewhere to avoid the lock-in,” he wrote in an article for Mobile Enterprise.

So is VMware taking note? What are its plans for AirWatch and leveraging the two companies’ solution sets?

Kit Colbert, CTO, End-User Computing at VMware, started to answer these questions in his April 30 blog, writing, “First, I want to make it's clear that this is not about just integrating two sets of technologies. It’s about setting a vision for end-user computing and helping to drive the industry forward. That vision is quite simple: users should be able to access all of their data and apps on any device without compromise, and IT should be able to seamlessly and consistently manage and secure all these apps, data, and devices.”

They are seeking to eliminate the compromise users have had to make, while bridging the gap between desktop and mobility management. The “journey” will occur in phases, according to Colbert, and will involve easy wins upfront, followed by disruptive innovations. Easy wins are important to any mobile strategy, but no specifics were mentioned or could be confirmed.

However, Colbert did elaborate on the disruption factor, telling Mobile Enterprise via email, “The core part of our vision is this notion that ‘a device is a device.’ This is disruptive because it removes today’s constraints around device choice, ushering in an era of true freedom of choice. Today we have desktops, phones and tablets, but tomorrow we’ll have glasses, watches, cars, and much more, all accessing corporate apps and data. The disruption is that, rather than continue on a path towards fragmentation, we have the opportunity to provide a basis of consistency across this very heterogeneous set of devices. This would benefit both end users and IT tremendously.”

What Customers Should Expect
Integration on its own can be complex, and VMware plans to extend existing technologies as well. Colbert includes a diagram illustrating the integration points that will be the foundation of filling the gap.

He offered no specific timeline, but promised updates at WMworld, which takes place in San Francisco from August 24-28, and in Barcelona in October.

How seamless can customers expect the process of the transition to be when it comes to the unification of the technologies?

Colbert said, “We believe that we can improve and simplify many different areas of end-user computing, but at the same time we realize that many customers have an existing way of operating that mostly works today, and that inertia is a powerful force. To that end, our goal is to ensure sufficient backwards compatibility, while at the same time moving forward and demonstrating the tremendous simplification and value of the unification to our customers.”

What About Security
Part of the vision is “one logon, one experience, any device.”  He said this means, seamless sharing, collaborating, in part through social, and syncing. An extension of functionality that provides more in the user experience sounds great, but may cause security red flags to go up in IT.  

Colbert cites AirWatch’s Secure Content Locker in the blog, and provided additional insight when asked about this point. He explained, “Be assured, security is already built in. Our goal is to make it as simple as possible for IT.  As a matter of fact, we can actually increase the security of the data in some circumstances.”

For example, consider attaching a document to an email. Once a user sends that email, they’ve lost control of the attachment. The recipient can forward it on to whomever they like. But if the sender instead sends a link to a document stored on Secure Content Locker, the sender has much more control over that document, he noted. It can be password protected; the maximum number of people who can view it can be specified, as can who has access to that document and what they can do with it (view only, edit, etc.). 

“So layering on social integration only helps, as we have more information about who’s trying to access or has accessed a document. In general, our philosophy is that the base container should be secure and then IT or the end-users can modulate the level of security through policy. They can set a permissive policy if they’re ok with the document being seen by many, or set a very restrictive policy if they only want it seen by a few. But the point is that IT and the user should have control and that security should be built-in,” according to Colbert.

He goes into greater detail about the implications for users and admins/IT, provides visuals and asks for feedback as well.

Analyst Perspective
Marsh offered additional insight on the general trend towards EMM in the industry and said, “The enterprise mobile solutions landscape is very fragmented, full of point solutions despite prolific vendor claims of 'end-to-end solutions'. The complex heterogeneity that this inevitably means, poses huge challenges (time, cost, resourcing, technical compatibility) in implementation for enterprises, often resulting in deployment silos in any case. Large IT vendors like SAP, IBM, and VMware are looking to be the one stop shop for all things mobility in the enterprise, which can offer inherent advantages for incumbent customers, for whom critical capabilities like EMM can scale across the existing services they are consuming. EMM in particular is a net consumer of resources as opposed to being revenue generating, so close integration is key so as not to foist a worse operational burden on enterprise IT than might otherwise be the case with a third-party point solution.”

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